A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History by Nicholas Wade | Audiobook (CD) | Barnes & Noble
A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History

A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History

3.7 6
by Nicholas Wade, Alan Sklar
     
 

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Drawing on startling new evidence from the human genome, an exploration of how and why the human population differentiated into distinctive races beginning fifty thousand years ago
Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races

Overview

Drawing on startling new evidence from the human genome, an exploration of how and why the human population differentiated into distinctive races beginning fifty thousand years ago
Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races are biologically different from one another. For this understandable reason, the idea has been banished from polite academic conversation. Arguing that race is more than just a social construct can get a scholar run out of town, or at least off campus, on a rail. Human evolution, the consensus view insists, ended in prehistory.

Inconveniently, as Nicholas Wade argues in A Troublesome Inheritance, the consensus view cannot be right. And in fact, we know that populations have changed in the past few thousand years—to be lactose tolerant, for example, and to survive at high altitudes. Race is not a bright-line distinction; by definition it means that the more human populations are kept apart, the more they evolve their own distinct traits under the selective pressure known as Darwinian evolution. For many thousands of years, most human populations stayed where they were and grew distinct, not just in outward appearance but in deeper senses as well.

Wade, the longtime journalist covering genetic advances for The New York Times, draws widely on the work of scientists who have made crucial breakthroughs in establishing the reality of recent human evolution. The most provocative claims in this book involve the genetic basis of human social habits. What we might call middle-class social traits—thrift, docility, nonviolence—have been slowly but surely inculcated genetically within agrarian societies, Wade argues. These “values” obviously had a strong cultural component, but Wade points to evidence that agrarian societies evolved away from hunter-gatherer societies in some crucial respects. Also controversial are his findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations, including the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews.

Wade believes deeply in the fundamental equality of all human peoples. He also believes that science is best served by pursuing the truth without fear, and if his mission to arrive at a coherent summa of what the new genetic science does and does not tell us about race and human history leads straight into a minefield, then so be it. This will not be the last word on the subject, but it will begin a powerful and overdue conversation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611762778
Publisher:
Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.41(w) x 5.69(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Wade received a B.A. in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor.

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A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
waltzmn More than 1 year ago
This book is extremely controversial -- though I fear that many of those who pan it haven't bothered to read it. In fact, most of the information here is well-known and scientifically accepted. The first point is that there are gene variations that affect behavior, just as there are genes that affect health. The second is that genes are not evenly distributed -- that some genes are more common in certain populations than in others. The third is that these genes could be said to run in groups. So, for example, the gene for sickle-cell anemia is common in people of African origin, rare in those not of African origin. The gene for lactose tolerance is common in Europeans, rare elsewhere. These are basic facts. And it is also fact that there are many genes which cluster in that same way. So there are groups of genes found typically in Europeans, in Africans, in people in the far east. This is fact. It is also fact that, using these genetic traces, it is possible to identify where a person's ancestors came from. Also, because genes influence behavior, it means that certain behaviors are more common in some populations than others. That's the nice way to put it. The hot-button way of expressing it is that "Race means something." It is perhaps unfortunate that Nicholas Wade chose to use the word "Race," because it frankly leads people to assume things that Wade does not assume. Saying that "race is real" is not the same as saying that (for instance) ALL Whites are more/less intelligent than ALL Blacks, or that ALL Blacks are faster/slower than ALL Whites, or any such thing. It just means that there are statistically measurable differences, in some areas, between peoples from different parts of the world. Of course there are. Tibetans can breathe at higher altitudes than most people. Inuit can handle colder temperatures than inhabitants of Kenya. But use the word "Race" and... it all goes crazy. So forget that Wade used the word "Race" and concentrate on what he has to say. And that is VERY interesting. He makes arguments about how genes could affect history, society, and culture. About where we might go in the future. Tremendously important ideas, if they can be verified. That is not to claim that everything in this book is correct. Wade reaches some conclusions I think dubious, and he fails to see some obvious logical consequences of the ideas he presents. It is not a perfect book. Rather, it is the starting point for what could be a tremendously fruitful discussion. If, and only if, people will actually read the book, and not read what they think it is about.
DomSaxum More than 1 year ago
Wade has taken a fascinating and potentially incendiary issue and explored it with facts, sensitivity and candor. IF your interests lie in philosophy, genetics, race, anthropology or behavioral economics, this book is very worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You mean race is not a social construct? You can tell someone's race by analyzing their genome? Preposterous! Actually the book is a bit long winded and the author leaves some obvious conclusions unstated, but hopefully will get some people thinking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Racist, unscientific BS. Pass it by.